This past weekend, Beyoncé delivered Lemonade, her sixth studio album and most intimate project to date. While the album and film are about a lot of profound things, several of the songs delve heavily into the notion of infidelity. Given previous rumors and a very intense Jay Z cameo during the "Sandcastles" portion of the visual, many assume that these songs are all about the marriage between Jay Z and Beyoncé. Many, except for celebrity biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli, who last year released the unauthorized biography Becoming Beyoncé: The Untold Story. In the book, Taraborrelli writes that Beyoncé's father, Mathew Knowles, cheated on her mother, Tina, and according to Taborrelli, Beyoncé's first love Lyndall Locke also cheated on her. However, when it comes to the marriage of Jay and Bey, Taborrelli simply doesn't believe that all is what it seems with respect to Lemonade. We spoke with him about what he thinks is really going on.
In the book you write at great length about the notion of cheating in Beyoncé's life. There's her father's history of it, there's her first boyfriend, and there's speculation about Jay Z. How did you uncover what was going on? First of all we spent 40 hours with Lyndall, so that was very enlightening because she's only had two relationships—Lyndall and Jay Z. Lyndall was with her for a third of her life, and he was very clear with us that she feels very strongly because of what she went through with him and what she has seen in her parents' marriage that she would not accept infidelity in a relationship. But I think that she's also a very calculating career strategist who understands how to take full advantage of the popular narrative about her life, and the popular narrative about her life right now is that she and Jay Z are having marital problems. Now I'm not a psychic, I'm a biographer, and I can't say that Jay Z didn't have a one-night stand in a tour bus a week ago, but I do know from my studying of Beyoncé [that] her personality is such that if in fact she was actually having marital problems, she would not be sitting down writing songs about it for the nation to dissect and interpret. That's not who she is. She's too private a person to handle her marital dysfunction for the world to see and examine. More likely what she's doing is she's possibly writing about her mother's marriage and what she witnessed there. That sounds like Beyoncé. Or she's taking the general consensus [of what] the nation feels about her marriage to Jay Z, and she's capitalizing on it and giving the public what they want, which is the intrigue about that relationship.
But it's a real stretch to say that she is the kind of artist who only writes from personal experience. Sometimes she does of course, like all artists, but you can't take every song that she writes and assume that what's going on in the song is actually what's going on in her private life. That's just not the way it works. For instance, the song on the album called "Daddy Lessons," in which she says that her father told her that if she ever comes across a man like him, she should shoot him with a rifle—I sort of doubt that Mathew ever told her that.
At the end of Lemonade the assumption is that they're staying together; however, Tina and Mathew separated. So if the story is about them, why didn't she end the story discussing the end of a relationship? Again, that's jumping to the conclusion that everything that she's writing about is true, and I just don't think that's the way she works. What artists do is take bits and pieces of stories and they compose fiction that may be based on true events, but it's not necessarily the true event. We can't know what's going on in Beyoncé's marriage to Jay Z; we can't presume to know all of the fine points of this relationship that's almost 20 years old. I'm not that guy who's going to sit here and have absolute pronouncements about the private life of any person that I write about, but I am the guy who can take a look at that person's character and personality and how she has lived her life in the past and come to the conclusion that if in fact all this was true, she wouldn't be telling us about it. She's not that girl you know who is that open about the secrets of her marriage that she's going to allow public scrutiny of all of this. She's more the type of person who is putting together an interesting concept that she knows people will latch onto because of the popular rumors about her marriage, and then it's going to cause you and I to do this interview. That's what she's about. She's not about sharing her private life with the world. She's about marketing and branding and selling records, and there's nothing wrong with that.
How do you explain Elevatorgate? In the book you do highlight some theory that perhaps he did have an affair, and there was a period of separation between the two of them. So what if she's just singing at a distance about that period of time that you referenced in the book? What I wrote about Elevatorgate was that she has a super sensitivity about Rihanna because of press strategy gone wild more than 10 years ago, and we were never ever able to conclude that Jay Z actually had the affair with Rihanna. In fact we talked to the publicist who said that he planted the story and that it was absolutely not true, but it did cause a rift in her marriage to Jay Z. So yeah, maybe she's drawing from that all these many years later. I doubt it; I think that she probably has had other issues with Jay Z over the last 10 or 15 years other than that one that I talked about it my book. I'm not saying that she and Jay Z have a perfect marriage. Please, who does? I'm just saying let's just not buy hook, line, and sinker into every statement made by a pop artist and believe that she is making us privy to her private life. It might be a fun thing to do if you're one of her fans, but I just don't think that as critically thinking people we need to assume that that's what's going on. There's too much marketing, branding, advertising, public relations; there's too much thought that goes into, "What do we need to do to sell records and concert tickets?" For me to think that she's just betraying Jay Z by telling her fans what's going on in her marriage—I just think it's too naive.
But why do that to her personal life? Any crumbs she offers up are going to be widely consumed regardless if it's the truth or not. Well that's why, because any crumbs that she offers up will be widely consumed, whether it's true or not. That's it right there. There you go. If her marriage is fine, and I believe it is, and they've been together for 15 years, then no harm no foul. If there really isn't anything going on, what the heck does Jay Z care? And what does she care? And what does her family care? Nobody really cares except for us. It's great music, it's really compelling, it causes a discussion, and it causes a conversation. That's what this is really all about for her. It's having conversations, and maybe people having conversations about infidelity in their own marriages and in their own lives.
In your book you paint this very specific picture of Beyoncé that fits perfectly with Lemonade, so that's why it may be harder for people who have read your book to accept that Beyoncé isn't talking about herself. Within the context of Lemonade it does seem like one long story. In my book I wrote that she's not the kind of girl who would ever sit back and allow her husband to be unfaithful to her…if Jay Z ever was unfaithful to her she would kick him out of the house and that would be the end of their marriage. I don't think that she's the kind of person who would have this kind of struggle about it. She knows what she wants and she knows what she will tolerate in a relationship. She has a lot of respect for her mother and for her parents' marriage, but she was always very clear that that's not the marriage that she wanted. To say that she's had the struggles that she suggests that she's having in Lemonade, I just don't think that that's in her character. Like I said earlier, I'm not a psychic, and I can't know everything that goes on in Beyoncé's world, but it seems to me after studying her that all of this is likely more about what she's witnessed in her mom's marriage.
Is there any part of you that thinks this might be about Lyndall? I think it might be about not specifically Lyndall, but like all artists she pulls from every aspect of her life and puts it all together in a melting pot of creativity and pulls from it what she will. I certainly don't think that she's sitting around smarting over what happened with Lyndall 10 years ago. But when your heart is broken and you have that experience and you want to write about heartbreak, then you go back and you draw from it. It doesn't mean that she's got an issue with Lyndall all these years later. I'm sure she hasn't given him a second thought except if she read my book, you know?
What would you say to the Beyhive about Lemonade? I would say just enjoy it and enjoy the experience, and if you feel like Beyoncé is speaking to you about her private life, then go with that. I'm only talking about me as a biographer and a story and what I believe to be true, but if you're the kind of person who really feels like this speaks to you and that she is speaking directly to you about her marriage to Jay Z and she's letting you in on a secret, then this is what she wants for you. She wants you to go along on this journey and she wants you to have conversations and she wants you to be intrigued about it. She doesn't want some guy like me throwing cold water in your face. This is what show business is all about; it's about the collective experience of a great project like this. It's not about some biographer trying to pick it all apart and figure out what part is true and what part isn't true. It's about her fans just digging in and loving every second of it, and that's what I say to them. Love it because she's at her peak of persuasive power right now, and if you're a fan of Beyoncé's, goddamn it are you lucky. These are the glory years.
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